The Magnifying Glass Mystery: A Nancy Drew Virtual Escape Room

dreamstimemaximum_128434864_1

Introducing our newest Katie-designed escape room! While on a visit to the New-York Historical Society with your friend Nancy Drew, you learn that a precious museum relic has gone missing! Your investigation will take you through the historical society’s exhibits and NYC’s famous Central Park! Good luck, super sleuths!

Ready to begin? Click here!

Interested in our other virtual escape rooms? Solve a case with Sherlock Holmes here, search for pirate’s gold here, step inside a museum of scientific discovery here, and adventure in a submarine here! Want to try to design your own room? You’ll find Katie’s helpful tutorial here.


Image courtesy of dreamstime

From the Desk of Mr. Sherlock Holmes

In the age of electronic communication – texts, emails, Slack, Zoom – there’s something magical about receiving an old fashioned letter in your mailbox. It’s even more thrilling when the return address says the correspondence is from Sherlock Holmes!

Our library has worked with Detective Holmes on multiple occasions. We helped him solve the mystery of a missing tiger (virtual escape room) and also track down an antidote to poison that had been released in the Princeton water system (in person escape room). And younger detectives can try rebus puzzles here. Yes, we believe our crime solving skills are top-notch and we needed a new task. So when Katie discovered a mystery-solving mailing game, she decided to give it a test drive! Take it away, Katie!


“Dear Holmes” is a monthly subscription that mails mysterious letters addressed to Sherlock Holmes directly to your mailbox. You receive five letters every month: four letters with clues and one letter with the answer. The challenge is to solve the case before the master literary detective himself sends his solution. When you sign up, you select one of three levels of membership spanning a year: we subscribed for three months for $60. There’s a gift option for sending letters to those who enjoy figuring out whodunit, and you can pause or renew your subscription at any time.

My first letter arrived in early June and I had my magnifying glass at the ready. I wasn’t entirely sure what to do, so as I read I would make mental notes of strange coincidences, interesting conversations, and odd happenings that were shared by the writer of the letter. When the solution message from Holmes arrived at the end of the month, I found myself saying “oh yeah!” and “I knew it!” as I was reading his explanation. When I received the next letters, I paid close attention to all of the critical details shared in the document. I highlighted passages and wrote notes in the margins, all while asking my own questions and making comments about who may be behind the crime. And I was right! I didn’t figure out every piece of the puzzle, but I had pinned the correct person behind the dastardly deed.

The attention to detail within the letters is really remarkable. The behind the scenes authors who write the story lines provide every minute detail to make you believe you are communicating with a person living in Victorian London. The paper and envelope are extremely high quality, and the font that is used is somewhat reminiscent of the era.

“Dear Holmes” a fun activity for your entire friend or family group, whether you are living close together or are on different sides of the country. It’s a mystery that isn’t solved immediately, so there’s time to debate and discuss before the next letter arrives. It’s also something you can do entirely on your own. There’s no provided age range, but I would suggest 12+. I recommend “Dear Holmes” wholeheartedly!

A historical note about the intro photo, which was taken in the William Elfers ’41 Reading Room on the third floor of Firestone Library. Discreetly tucked under a staircase is the personal secretary desk of John Witherspoon, who was President of Princeton University from 1768-1794 and is a signer of the Declaration of Independence. One can only imagine Sherlock Holmes scribbling his own letters using a similar style desk!

Splashy Spelling

Get kids C-L-E-A-N with this simple alphabet activity for your bathtub. Rubber ducky not included, but you shoud T-O-T-A-L-L-Y get one!

You’ll need:

  • Cellophane
  • Scissors
  • Bathtub or tub of water

The concept of this project is simple. Cut a bunch of alpahbet letters out of cellophane, then float them in the tub during your next bathtime. Gently moving the different letters around, you can spell CAT, RAT, BAT, MAT or whatever combination you would like to try!

And if you try SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS, definitly send me a pic.

Cellophane is notoriously crinkly, so two hints: 1) Draw the letter template on a sheet of paper, lay the cellophane piece on top, then cut both; 2) If your desk scissors are tearing the cellophabe, use fabric scissors (seen below).

As you can see from the image that started this post, the cellophane floats easily on the water, sinking a bit as the bath progresses and the waters shift. However! I learned that not all cellophanes act like this!

I ordered some rainbow cello sheets from Amazon, wanting to use a fun assortment of colors for the letters. Well, I put them in tub and they just curled and melted like some sort of Wicked Witch of the West. And when I grabbed them, they stained the water AND my fingers pink! Noooooooooooo!

Luckily, I had another roll of blue cellophane in the house, purchased from Michael’s Craft store. Nervous, I laid the cellophane letters on the water…it worked! Floating, no curling, no staining! So if you want a pretty sure bet for this project, head to Michael’s to pick up some cellophane rolls. And test a sample of your cello before putting them in the tub with your child. This activity can also be done in a convinient dishtub or kiddie pool.

Happy splashing and spelling!